Last year this time I wrote that you should take an entrepreneurial view of your organisation and start experimenting and breaking stuff. Why? Because if you don’t foster a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, you’re going to get left behind.
If you thought 2017 was fast-paced and disruptive, hold onto your seats as we enter 2018. Virtually every major industry is going to be shaken up by technology and what it enables. Not for its own sake, though, but because customers demand it.
Start-ups know this and are building their businesses from the ground up to harness things such as cloud computing, automation, artificial intelligence and mobility.
They’re also not asking their people to do stupid, mundane tasks, and are instead freeing them up to be more strategic, creative and customer-focused.
So how do you build a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation? Well, first, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur yourself. Nor does everyone in your business. But what you do need to do is enable a culture that is open to ideas. From anyone. Even ideas that, at first glance, seem to be wild, because you never know where they can lead you.
Take the invention of Post-it notes by 3M employees. In 1968 an employee invented the adhesive, but didn’t really have a use for glue that wasn’t very sticky. It was six years later, in 1974, that another employee made the connection and realised the glue could be used to create a reusable sticky note.
Compare this to Kodak, who sat on its employee’s invention of the digital camera and, according to some versions of the story, the foundation technology of the mobile phone, to avoid cannibalising its existing business. This squashing of ideas ended up in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by 2012.
I often write about compiling your budgets with input from the coalface. Getting the input from the people at the sharp end of the spending and making money builds transparency, buy-in and alignment. Of course it also allows you to tap into insights on the ground that you simply would not have access to from behind your desk.
Think of building your entrepreneurial culture in the same way. Ideas can come from anywhere: the new hire who brings a fresh pair of eyes, the junior who lives the same millennial culture your clients do, the receptionist who sees how irritated people get with paper-based processes, and the call centre agent who actually speaks to your customers every day.
The only stupid questions or ideas are the ones that don’t get asked or shared.
It doesn’t have to be perfect at first. Ideas in progress are valuable too, especially if others can make them stronger.
Go wide, and get people talking to each other. You never know when and where the lightbulb insight that saves you money, makes you money, or helps you work better is going to come from.
Kevin Phillips CA(SA) is CEO of IDU Group